Doug Wolter: Don't look back, Twins, just keep playing
I couldn't help thinking, as I was watching the Minnesota Twins on TV last weekend, how the now-retired Joe Mauer could have helped this 2019 club. Even in the latter stages of Mauer's career, he was still a very tough out. He might have been a v...
I couldn’t help thinking, as I was watching the Minnesota Twins on TV last weekend, how the now-retired Joe Mauer could have helped this 2019 club. Even in the latter stages of Mauer’s career, he was still a very tough out. He might have been a valuable veteran presence, too, for this current Twins lineup.
But on second thought … who needs him?
Certainly, the newly energized Twins are doing just fine as they are. Who would have thought? In fact, on Sunday they had the best record in baseball.
Does this make sense?
Well, no. And, well, yes.
Baseball is weird sometimes. Remember the 1969 Mets?
The Twins weren’t good in 2018, compiling a 78-84 record. They got rid of a Hall of Fame manager, Paul Molitor, and replaced him with someone called Rocco Baldelli. Who? Well, it was said quietly that Baldelli could light a fire under a young team.
Maybe that’s it.
But, of course, it’s more than that. Sometimes it’s just the natural order of things. Several Twins who you thought should have been better in 2018 are playing much better in 2019. I’m thinking about Max Kepler, he with the pretty left-handed swing who hit just .224 last year. He’s hit seven home runs through Monday and he’s driving in runs with regularity. Byron Buxton hit a dreadful .156 in 90 at bats last year, so terrible at the plate that even his incredible defense in center field wasn’t enough to keep him in the bigs. He’s doing just fine, now.
One important free agent, 38-year-old designated hitter Nelson Cruz, was signed to give Minnesota the pop it needed. Cruz has been re-energized in Minnesota, but many of his teammates are pounding the ball, too. Eddie Rosario, the team’s most natural star, hit his 12th home run on Monday.
And then there’s the pitching.
Sometimes in major league baseball, assembling a starting pitching staff is like throwing darts blindfolded. You hope one or two of them stick. This year, the Twins have put together a staff made up of Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda, Kyle Gibson and Martin Perez.
Perez has been lights out, which has been a surprise to everyone.
We already knew Berrios was good. But the others, no so much.
Remember, it wasn’t long ago that the Twins had to rely on Ervin Santana. Starting pitchers don’t generally have long shelf lives, and when it goes south, it can go there quickly.
Which is a nifty segue into my next point. It’s early May. In baseball, things can change quickly. Already, experts and fans are wondering if these Twins can keep it up.
But it’s pure defeatism to expect the worst. This isn’t football, these aren’t the Vikings, and there’s no NFC title game to blow. The 2019 Twins are beating good teams. They’ve hardly cracked their schedules against the other teams in their division -- Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit and Kansas City -- and of the four, only Cleveland (which can’t hit) is a threat.
What the Twins oughta do is ignore the experts. Don’t think about what might go wrong. Just keep playing. That’s all. Just keep playing.